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Sew good: Crafters know no borders during pandemic :

April 27, 2020

Editor’s note:Pediatricians around the country have risen to the challenges posed by the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic. Some are on the front lines battling the virus; others are connecting with patients while hunkered down at home. They are relying on creativity, ingenuity and tenacity to keep their patients healthy and their practices afloat. Here is one pediatrician’s story. 

What started as a pediatrician’s project to extend a mask supply by a couple of weeks has turned into a labor of love for a growing group of crafters 2,900 miles away.

Like health care professionals worldwide, Tracy MacPherson (Dr. Mac), M.D., FAAP, recognized in the early days of the pandemic that she would not have enough masks for her staff of 24 in Orangeburg, S.C. She ordered, but nothing arrived.

She attempted to stretch the practice’s meager supply by having staff wear masks for several days. The plan was not sustainable. “This is just not right,” she said. “I’ve got enough masks for about two weeks, and I’ve got to get ahead of this thing.”

She set out to make her own masks. In the absence (at the time) of any official guidance on what’s effective, she watched several YouTube videos on how to make her own. Triple ply, with the top and bottom layers made of tightly woven fabric and a layer of interfacing in between. Rummaging through a plastic tub of sewing remnants, she found some colorful fabric with a lizard and snake pattern. “The kids will like that,” she thought.

That night, she sewed one, then posted a picture and instructions on Facebook. “It was really quite easy, so I decided to make at least one for every one of my providers.”

Out of supplies, she sent her husband to the store with a list. He came home empty-handed. According to the clerk, someone had posted mask-making instructions on social media, and supplies flew off the shelves within hours. The local community had taken up the cause and began to sew masks, too. Soon, masks began to show up on her doorstep.

Meanwhile, in Kamloops, B.C., Canada, Dr. Mac’s sister saw the Facebook post. Her husband, an emergency department physician, had just used his last mask. Sizing up the homemade mask, he said, “It’s better than nothing. Make me one.”

From there, a community effort to make masks flourished. A well-coordinated Facebook group called Sew the Curve Kamloops boasts more than 1,000 members.

Eventually, the hospital received its supply of surgical masks. Still, there continues to be great need for Sew the Curve Kamloops masks, and they are being put to good use. New mothers, for example, are going home with the masks for themselves and their family members.

As for Dr. Mac, she put her mask-making days behind her, once a colleague received a delivery of N95 masks. But in Orangeburg and Kamloops, people continue to work with each other for a common cause.

“It is really joyful to see a community come together like this,” she said.

To read other pediatricians’ stories, visit

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